Our Thoughts

Doing best what matters most to customers at this difficult time

25th March 2020

Across almost all sectors, the large majority of customers are very hungry for information from the companies they deal with. Clearly, companies are very stretched trying to cope with unprecedented demands on everyone’s time but our survey shows that there are opportunities to enhance companies’ reputation in the eyes of customers by giving customer communications a little more thought.

A survey on the TLF Panel conducted on Tuesday March 25th 2020 with a nationally representative sample of 1,688 respondents showed fewer than half of all home owners, private renters and social housing tenants have been contacted about recent events. Read the summary online below or download a PDF copy. For more information about the survey and results please contact us here.

Are you communicating with customers?

40% of home owners have been contacted by their mortgage company

30% of private renters have been contacted by their landlord

35% of social housing tenants have been contacted by their housing association

Even the minority who have been contacted are not always happy with the information they’ve received.

Only 20% of home owners were very satisfied with the information provided by their mortgage company and only 18% of social housing tenants with the information from their housing association. Why is that? It seems that communications are too much like one way traffic – telling customers facts about what you are going to do for them, and what you are not going to do for them, rather than asking how you might be able to help them.

For example, housing associations, if they have made contact at all, told their residents how they could contact the housing association and what changes they are making to responsive repairs, planned maintenance and payment services. Only 1 in 5 were told about services for vulnerable residents or about how they could make contact if they had concerns about their health. And don’t forget, that’s only the 35% who had been contacted in the first place. So approximately 7% of social housing tenants have been reminded about services for vulnerable residents or given any information about how to make contact if they have health concerns. This is particularly unfortunate since most people are more concerned about others than themselves.

How worried are people?

We asked panellists how worried they are about various things, scored on the normal 10-point scale where 10 means ‘extremely concerned’ and 1 means ‘not at all concerned’. So if we take those scoring 7 to 10, 66% are concerned about their financial stability, fewer than half (48%) about job security and just over half, 52%, about isolation and loneliness. More people, 61%, are concerned about their own physical health and 54% about their own mental health. But here’s the interesting thing, almost 3 in every 4 people (73%) are concerned about their family and friends’ physical health and 66% about family and friends’ mental health. They are more worried about other people than about themselves! 66% are also concerned about supply of food, 62% about supply of other products.

Opportunities for customer communications

This offers some clear opportunities for all suppliers’ communications to their customers. Clearly some forms of advice and offers of help will be more relevant to some sectors than others, but here, in order of priority, are the things that people are most worried about and where they would value help and advice.

  1. Physical health
    Don’t forget that people are even more concerned about friends and family than about themselves so since there has been a plethora of information in the media about how to look after yourself there is an information gap about how, at a time of self-isolation, they can help to look after others.
  2. Mental health
    There many opportunities to help customers to reduce the negative impact of isolation. Online quizzes, chat rooms, webinars or simple videos. Housing associations with concentrations of homes could do local area photo quizzes (e.g. places, famous people), a great way to establish two-way communications as people can send in photos as well as enter the quiz.
  3. Supply of food and other products
    As we all know, there is a wide spectrum here from the selfish with spare rooms full of provisions to the vulnerable and those with more social conscience whose fridges and cupboards are almost empty. And we all know that doing an online grocery shop, especially if you’re not already a registered online customer is impossible. There are some very obvious implications for retailers who can directly address this issue, especially those with some form of loyalty scheme such as Nectar or Clubcard. One would hope that the purpose of a loyalty scheme is to reward good customers, thus re-inforcing their loyalty. The more cynical might say they’re just a vehicle for collecting information on customers’ habits and preferences so they can be sold more stuff. Well right now there’s a golden opportunity for retailers to prove that their loyalty schemes are not cynical sales promotions but are designed to help and reward customers. For example, Tesco and Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets with similar loyalty schemes know who their customers are. Moreover they have introduced schemes for prioritising online orders from customers they identify as vulnerable. Maybe they could have gone further to reward loyalty and boost loyal customers’ view of their CSR credentials, by emailing all loyalty card holders offering a priority online shop for any vulnerable family or neighbours.

There are obviously other concerns such as financial stability which will be very relevant to some sectors but there are many opportunities for companies across all sectors to engage in genuinely helpful communications with their customers. And they want you to. We also asked panellists if they thought companies should stop doing surveys to collect feedback from customers. Less than 1 in 8 said they should stop showing that they want communication from suppliers and they want suppliers to show some concern for them.

01484 517575
Taylor Hill Mill, Huddersfield HD4 6JA
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